Another year, another nerdgasm known as San Diego Comic Con has come and gone. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that SDCC is THE place to go for the biggest, latest, ground-breakingest news in the world of Comics in Realms Other Than Comics… which translates to movies, for the most part. (Although TV gets a good bump, too. And oh yeah, there are some actual comic creators there as well. Yes, Hollywood hasn’t quite kicked them out just yet.
So I thought I’d take a minute to react to some of the larger-looming news items that unspooled over the course of the weekend. Because, seriously, we nerds don’t have much better to do than light up the internet with our innermost thoughts/unfiltered rage about what’s going on with our favorite characters.
1. “Age of Ultron?! THE FUCK!?” I’ll be the first to admit I went into a blind rage after the initial announcement of the retitled Avengers 2 was revealed as Avengers: Age of Ultron. Who in their right mind wouldn’t be worried? Age of Ultron proved to be not only one of the worst event comics of all time, with barely a coherent story; not only did it prove to be the biggest blight of Brian Michael Bendis’s career; NOT ONLY was it one of the worst Marvel comics in the last decade, PERIOD…. now this afterbirth of a story is going to invade the big screen version of my beloved Avengers?! No, no, no… I was in complete denial, and then Joss Whedon assuaged my fears. According to a video interview procured by comicbookmovies.com, Whedon basically told everyone to chill because his sequel shared a common title with that miniseries, and that’s about it. His sequel is Ultron’s origin with a title cribbed from a recent story, which shows the synergy going on at Marvel right now between film and print, which is a masterstroke in marketing but unfortunately also leads to little things like a black Nick Fury suddenly being shoehorned into the Marvel Universe proper (the print universe, I mean). So that is what it is, I suppose. Nothing to worry about, except…
2. “No Hank Pym?!?! THE FUCK?!?!” Whedon decided to also drop the bomb that his Avengers sequel would NOT feature Hank Pym, which therefore strains the assumed connections between that film and Ant-Man, which is the following Marvel film after that. It also means that Whedon intends on pushing the limits of fan tolerance when it comes to things like this, because the removal of Hank Pym from the equation means a significant departure from Ultron’s established comics origin. This could considered a risky move were it being pulled by anyone other than Joss Whedon, Our Lord and Master.
3. “Sorry, but a talking raccoon just ain’t doin’ it for me.” Despite all the casting reveals and whatnot that we got on the Guardians of the Galaxy front, I’m still having a difficult time mustering up ANY enthusiasm for this film. It seems, at least on the surface, as something of a Star Wars homage all tucked into the furthest recesses of the established Marvel universe. But its cast is HUGE, and it has three established villains: the Collector, Ronan the Accuser, and Nebula, plus Thanos in some unspecified capacity (probably behind the scenes, pulling the strings, in an Emperor Palpatine-esque fashion). We’re going to need more information on this one before I can classify it as anything other than a bizarre left-field attempt to diversify the onscreen Marvel U.
4. “Electro is blue! THE FUCK!?!? …Oh wait, it’s just the Ultimate version of the character.” No doubt even the hardest of hardcore Steve Ditko fans aren’t too broken up over the lack of Electro’s original look in Amazing Spider-Man 2. But I don’t think very many people (myself included) were expecting Marc Webb to go all-out Ultimate Marvel with the character’s look, either. But it makes sense, since ASM was basically Ultimate Spider-Man: The Motion Picture. Jamie Foxx looks great, though. Stealth aside, Foxx has revealed himself to be a seriously talented actor in the years since Ray (a movie only truly worth seeing for Foxx’s astounding performance). So that, I’m not worried about. What does worry me is the Rhino, played by…. Paul Giamatti? How completely bizarre is that casting? But in a movie that already sounds like it’s overstuffed (Spidey! Gwen! Electro! Rhino! Norman Osborn! Harry Osborn!), director Marc Webb recently told Entertainment Weekly that Giamatti doesn’t even have a large role. So if that’s the case, why’s he even in there? Other than to sell cool toys to dumb kids, I mean? Sounds like studio interference to me, the same thing that doomed Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 by forcing the director the wedge Venom into the story where there was no room for him. And then Venom both sucked and got short-changed. And Spidey 3 felt bloated and unfocused. And Peter Parker sported emo hair and danced, and we all wanted to stab our eyes out with rusty butter knives. So the fact that this appears to be going on in the mere first sequel, especially with third and fourth installments already slated, leaves my spider-sense tingling for the danger I sense looming on the horizon for this franchise.
5. “Walking Dead sure is cool! Wait, who the hell ARE these people?! THE FUCK!?!” The Walking Dead season four clip that debuted had a lot of good things going for it. There’s a palpable tension, mixed with the sense of hope that our hardscrabble survivors are in fact banding together, becoming a stronger community, and re-establishing some form of society. And Tyreese is there, being Rick’s newfound best friend, just like he should be. But there’s a lot of questionable stuff going on, too. After all, on top of last season’s… dubious finale (I’m being generous here), there’s a very real sense among fans that this show, this ratings juggernaut, may have jumped the shark a teensy bit. But a bigger concern lies with all those new faces we see in the clip. At least half the show’s original cast is dead by this point, four of them biting the bullet just last season, creating a vacuum which must be filled. But asking viewers to accept these new characters en masse is asking a considerable amount, and it may prove to be too much for many of the show’s more casual fans. Oh sure, you don’t become cable’s undisputed ratings champ without a solid core audience, but I hope the producers are prepared to take the hit if these new characters don’t pan out. (But hey, seeing Larry “D’Angelo Barksdale” Gilliard Jr., from The Wire, scare up such an apparently prominent role as one of the rookie characters is awesome.)
6.“Dude, Vin Diesel sucks so hard.” It’s easy to say that. I haven’t had any interest in the guy since before the original Fast & the Furious, wherein he seemed to cement his title as Crown Douchebag of the Moment. But then his career tanked, and we seemed to be free of his bald-headed cockery. Alas, later installments of his series about cars driving very fast and doing many a credibility-defying thing proved me wrong. Son of a bitch! And now, it seems Marvel’s in on the Diesel racket. An official announcement has yet to commence, but the interweb rumor mill is strongly associating him with Ultron. Uh… huh. I’d actually say he’s a closer physical specimen to the Vision, who was the initial subject of rumor when Diesel first started hinting at his involvement with Marvel. I’d say he has about he right acting range to play the Vision… after all, it merely requires you to be a robot who occasionally says and does things that remind you he’s really human inside. Sounds about like every role Diesel has ever played! (Except that time he got shot to death early on in Saving Private Ryan.) But do we really want a Vision who sounds like Riddick everytime he opens his mouth to speak???
7. “Superman/Batman?! Yeah, good luck with that.” No, really. Good luck with that. Where to start with how much could possibly go wrong with this? Well, let’s start with the recasting of Batman, because Christian Bale has confirmed he’s done with the role. Whatever schmuck Warner Bros. gets to don the cowl is in for the utterly thankless task of following Bale in the role, and, assuming Superman/Batman hits its 2015 target release date, will be assuming the role a mere three years after Bale’s swansong in Dark Knight Rises. Which means that Bale’s performance will still be very, very fresh in most peoples’ minds, and whoever’s in the costume is going to have to weather an onslaught of criticism from all corners. Somewhere between now and 2015, Warner’s going to have to figure out a way to get out ahead of that, and it’s going to take the savviest marketing campaign this side of Don Draper to pull it off. Next problem: is one movie enough for both these characters? On the one hand, The Avengers proved that multiple “big” characters could in fact coexist on the big screen successfully and without any one character feeling diminished. But on the other hand, despite the fact that this film’s only focus is on two characters, not six or seven… this is SUPERMAN AND BATMAN we’re talking about. The twin archetypical, undisputed gods of comic book lore. Without these two characters, there ARE no comics. Trying to successfully balance these two vastly different characters is going to be one of the trickiest balancing acts in history… and let’s face it, Zack Snyder is no Joss Whedon. Which leads me to my third problem: Zack Snyder. He’s apparently being given the keys to the DC kingdom, but he’s without a doubt a style-over-substance director, which bodes ill for the future of the DC movie franchise (assuming it’s left in his hands) as Christopher Nolan pulls ever further away from the reins. (He’s pushed his role back to exec producer for Superman/Batman.) Snyder got lucky with the box office boom of Man of Steel, and was able to overcome its lukewarm reviews. But he doesn’t have the proven track record of being able to continuously generate the goods needed to be the directorial mastermind of an entire DCU, yet Warner is putting their stock in him anyway. I could be completely wrong by this (and yes, I hope I am), but I’m not holding my breath for Snyder to pull it off, either. Which leads me to my fourth and final sticking point: Warner Bros. wants The Flash next, and THEN a JLA flick, potentially in 2016 and 2017. The JLA film has had a notoriously bad time trying to get off the ground, and it doesn’t sound like Warner’s wants to wait around anymore, so they’re putting all their eggs in the Superman/Batman basket, operating under the assumption that it will work based on the basic nature of what it is. It’s common knowledge that Warner Bros. has a very, very shaky history with comic book film success (and even getting the projects in question off the ground at all) outside of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. As stated, Man of Steel has performed surprisingly well given its reviews, but what about Green Lantern? Or Superman Returns? Or the aborted Wonder Woman pilot, for that matter? Because of the grander-in-scale nature of DC’s characters, it’s always been trickier for them to translate–and more importantly, resonate–off of the comics page. It can be done, and has, multiple times in the past, but mostly on the small screen and in animated form. And all that was well before Marvel decided to squat down in 2008 with Iron Man and lay claim to the throne, a position it clearly has no intention of abdicating. So good luck to Warner Bros. with this Superman/Batman gamble. They’re going to need it.
That’s it for me. A lot of this was speculation, but I think you’ll agree that this was speculation that was built on a foundation of solid educated guesses. I’m sure there was a lot of other cool SDCC stuff I missed, but geez, there’s only so much I can take in. Next year, I predict Hall H will be consumed in a black hole of pure geekery, and I shall have nothing of the sort to discuss whatsoever.
Until then, I remain…